Spot the difference

Check it out, I went to the Ostsee!

 Hang on, I think I have another photo from a different angle…oh yes, here it is.










Ho, hold on…that can’t be right…here’s another photo:

And another shot of those dreamy waters:

Well, I don’t know what to tell you. The earth moves around the sun just 180 degrees and suddenly the beach has turned from the shore of the river Styx to the kind of thing you see in fake retro postcards they sell in hipster shops.

Granted, it was beautiful and awesome to see the Ostsee coast in Winter and be fully freaked out by the eeriness of the milky melancholy water/sky gradient that stretched out from the ground. But being on the German coast in early summer, after a morning of rain and grey clouds that did nothing but wash the stuffiness out of the air, was absolutely herrlich.

I think the Ostsee is probably one of Germany’s most undeservedly ignored tourist locations for anyone who isn’t a native Kraut like us. (Yes, us. I’m one of them now.) The images that spring to mind for anyone contemplating holidaying in Germany are striking cathedrals and earnest cultural edutainments like galleries and museums; one imagines drifting around Gothic-looking streets, gorging on sausage and beer with dirndled locals and having your brain twanged by the latest techno hipsterlectrofunkatunes in Berlin. But no-one really thinks they might end up on a beautiful cream-coloured beach surrounded by soft dune-grass and clear waters full of actual real pink jellyfish. 

Like any British coast, the sea is so cold you spasm into attacks of rapid breathing the minute it goes past your ankles, but that doesn’t matter to the hundreds of fearless and naked children being chucked around by their dads in the shallows and the noise of them having a brilliant time is oddly heartening. The surroundings are adorable, with thatched cottages leading up to the pier and little pubs serving Fischbrötchen. This is a much-loved spot for loads of Germans who come up from all over to this little smidgen of coast in the otherwise land-locked mass; next to us were a family who, I am informed, were deeply Sachsisch (i.e. from Saxony) and had such thick accents I could barely understand what they were saying. When their little boy was playing football it just sounded like he was yelling “poop, poop” like Toad in ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and I only really tuned in to their dialect when he suddenly stopped and demanded that he and his father take a break to eat something or they simply couldn’t continue. At any rate, this sweet family was a welcome change to the people who had previously been in their space, a ‘robust’ man and his wife who lay motionless and nude in the sun for ages like huge legs of ham dumped on the sand. 


Further up the coast the people begin to give way to wilderness and wildlife, and a small ridge of cliff rose out of the ground which was spotted with tiny cheese-holes. These had been dug into the clay by tiny swallow-like birds who flew in and out of the holes tweeting frenziedly.

The bird-watcher my mother implanted in me when I was little squeeed with joy.

Along the cliff there was a low wood and some bushes with pink flowers, and along the shore lay trees which had slumped down off the cliff the last time there had been a landslide. When we finished exploring our friend Tommy arrived wearing layers of thick black leather and clutching a vast black tarpaulin bag; clearly when we said we would meet him at the beach he misheard and thought we said the matrix. At any rate, once he arrived we committed ourselves to proper beach behaviour, namely licking ice-lollies and getting sand stuck everywhere. All these things are things I couldn’t have believed I would be doing when I first knew I would be coming to Berlin, let alone Germany, and I needed it like a sick person needs pills.

That evening we went to a traditional German Gaststätte and were served by a traditional German waiter who was portly and jolly and wore a nice patterned waistcoat reminiscent of my favourite Germanic waiter encountered thus far. We drank Apfelschorle and propped our table up with fifty beermats to prevent our food sliding off the table and down the steep cobbled alleyway we were sitting in. Now, you may want to bum around Berlin or marvel at Munich, but this is what the real Germans do for their minibreaks and it is goshdarned great.    

Adventures in the wilderness

If you asked me to take you to a place in Germany that is the opposite of Berlin in every single way (except for temperature), I would immediately take you to the Ostsee. If you asked me to take you somewhere that was the definition of Freud’s ‘uncanny’ (thank you, useless literary theory paper) I would take you to the Ostsee without hesitating. If you asked me to show you what Henley town centre would look like with a huge terrifying voodoo swamp replacing the river – well, you’d probably stop asking me to take you places because the lack of variety I offer is so disappointing. 

The Ostsee (and Riebnitz, the town I was staying in) is a very strange and lovely place. While I was there it seemed to be stuck in the ‘slowing down time’ mode of Prince of Persia, because everything was half-soaked in a translucent grey mist and the few living things in the area just drifted, like flecks of soot suspended in lamp-oil. 

Things persist in being stubbornly picturesque no matter where you go, which is probably why my internet has suddenly decided to once again forbid me from uploading any images. Thanks again, O2.

Well, it’s not exciting, but it’s totally unlike anything I have ever seen before; it was so quiet there were bubbles on the surface of the water that you could tell had been there for days, and at one point there was a grebe casually diving in and out of the water, creating a strange optical illusion as the sky and the sea were indistinguishable, both being an identical shade of grey. I’m also terribly upset thatI can’t put any more images into this post because one thing I absolutely loved in Ribnitz was the amber museum; I promise, fossilised resin really is worth a museum. They gave me a little sachet of amber chunks when I bought my ticket (I think partly out of gratitude for being the only visitor of the whole day) and I spent forever wandering around all the brilliant displays, my favourite being the array of insects stuck in amber and featuring as the main attraction the world’s only example of a REAL GECKO encased in amber that is millions of years old. Imagine seeing a laminated mammoth. That’s basically the same thing. It’s astonishing. 

I returned on Sunday night – shockingly, things are in no way different whatsoever back in the big city. My flatmates seem to be having the most incredible time, energised by ‘Herbstputz’ (like spring-cleaning, but in autumn), as every time I return to my apartment they are having an awesome cooking-fest or dancing around wearing sunglasses pretending that it’s sunny. The children are still wild, and made wilder by the fact that they are being allowed less and less time to go outside and joyfully hurt themselves and each other before they come to my lessons. Terror alerts in the city are causing the trains to be erratic, tourist attractions to be put into lockdown mode (sorry mum, but the Reichstag will have to wait till next time) and everyone from England to wryly comment that if this were Britain we’d already be on our fourth terror alert of the week. The Christmas lights are on, the Weihnachtsmaerkte are warming up the Gluehwein, the new bakery across the road opened with a razzmatazz brass band and I can’t, can’t, can’t wait to come home.